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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 30 at 10:19 AM


There's an awful lot going on tonight, including a knitting-themed romance, a book about tuna, and a history of English spelling from "Olde English to Email".

Up at the University of Washington club, Daniel Chirot reads from his book, which is clearly the title of the week: Why Not Kill Them All?: The Logic and Prevention of Mass Political Murder. You can't add commentary to a title like that.

At Town Hall, the good folks of the New York Review of Books get together with your friend and mine, Jonathan Raban, to have a talk called "After Bush." I can't wait until this election is over and we'll be able to enjoy the fact that Bush will no longer be in charge of this fucking country. Why not begin tonight, with a talk about what America is going to have to do to save face in the world outside our borders?

And up at Open Books, Lorna Dee Cervantes reads from her newest book of poems. Here is a link to one of her poems, titled "Freeway 280." I really like the last stanza, even though it's a little bit poetry-cliché.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 29 at 10:19 AM


Three events tonight.

First, at the University Book Store, Laura Anne Gilman reads from Free Fall, which is the fourth book in a young adult series. This one includes a "violently anti-fey covert organization." Let me tell you, if they want to get to Tina Fey, they're going to have to go through me first.

At Town Hall, Mike Chinoy reads from Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis. This is sure to terrify everyone who attends. Just in time for Halloween!

Up at Third Place Books, Paul Bannick reads from The Owl and the Woodpecker, which is about owls and woodpeckers and their place in the ecosystem. This is clearly the reading of the night.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Have a Small Beer for Obama

posted by on October 28 at 12:00 PM

Small Beer Press, which is a small publisher I happen to adore, is donating 20% of the money they raise from an online sale to the Obama campaign.

Small Beer puts out really great stuff, including books by Kelly Link and Carol Emshwiller (author of the very great The Mount, which I wrote about here.) They range from McSweeney's-ish fiction to science fiction to fantasy to horror and back again. Be sure to give a look at their website.

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 28 at 10:07 AM


There are a lot of readings about various things tonight.

At Town Hall, Bruce Barcott will be talking with Dave Uberuaga, the Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent. They will be discussing the chances that Mount Rainier will explode and kill us all in a Northwest-specific version of Armageddon. Perhaps an oil driller will save us all when the time comes. Wouldn't that be ironic?

Up at Third Place Books, Kirby Larson reads from The Bobbies, which is about two animals surviving Hurricane Katrina. The proceeds from this reading benefit Best Friends Animal Society.

At the University Book Store, Linda Bierds, who is a great poet, will read from her new book Flight. The New Yorker loved Flight, and you should, too.

And at Seattle Public Library, John Green will read from Paper Towns. Paper Towns comes with two covers, represented above. I've talked with quite a few booksellers who love this book dearly. Of course, most of them also love Green's previous book, An Abundance of Katherines, about a young man who can't seem to stop dating women named Katherine, a lot more. Slog tipper Mary informs me that there will be nerdfighting at this reading, which is part of something called the Tour De Nerdfighting. For more information about nerdfighting, go here.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Next James Frey?

posted by on October 27 at 12:00 PM

The headline to this story, "Bin Laden Writing His Memoirs," seems kind of misleading. The article explains what Osama Bin Laden's book is really about:

ISLAMABAD: World's most wanted fugitive, al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden is reportedly writing a book on the struggle of his terrorist network that dispenses money, logistical support and training to radical groups in over 50 countries.

The book, being written in Arabic, will later be translated into English. Bin Laden decided to write the book to counter "propaganda" against al-Qaida, Geo News channel reported.

Bin Laden is writing the book with the assistance of a "young man with a Middle Eastern background who will later translate the text into English", the channel reported. The book will reportedly highlight atrocities allegedly being committed on Muslims by the Western world.

It sounds kind of like a polemic to me, like a super-extreme version of an Ann Coulter or Michael Moore book. I'm too busy to check this morning, but I guarantee a right-wing blogger has already put this news item up with something that says "This book will get the Obama's Book Club seal of approval, haw-haw-haw." I'm willing to bet it'll become the most downloaded e-book in the history of the world when it's actually published.

Tony Hillerman

posted by on October 27 at 11:00 AM

The tremendously popular author of 18 mystery novels set on Navajo reservations is dead at 83. I've always meant to read one—he was one of the few contemporary series mystery authors who was praised for the high quality of his prose—but I have not as of yet.

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 27 at 10:16 AM


We have two high-quality events tonight, and one event I know nothing about.

Here is the know-nothing: John Soennichsen is at the University Book Store with a book called Bretz's Flood: The Remarkable Story of a Rebel Geologist and the World's Greatest Flood. We know we have rebel geologists and a flood, but the very long title doesn't help at all in determining the content of the book. Honestly, it sounds kind of like a Creationist book—the one geologist who dared to look for Noah's Ark!—but I'm assuming the good people of the University Book Store wouldn't do that to us. If you're interested in investigating, check here.

At the Hugo House tonight, Charles de Lint is reading. De Lint is a fantasy author who has written many books that I read when I was thirteen. I recall that he was very fond of word play and double entendres. Now he seems to be mainly a young adult author. Which is just about perfect. If you're into fantasy, this would be the reading for you.

And at Town Hall, Mia Kirshner reads from I Live Here. I regret that I was on vacation two weeks ago and didn't have time to write this book up: It's a large book that contains four smaller books about troubled areas around the world. There are comics and photos and journals and reportage. It's a lovely, wonderful book with contributions by great authors you should be paying attention to like Chris Abani, and by great comics artists you should already know, like Joe Sacco and Phoebe Gloeckner. You should go to this one.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reading Today

posted by on October 26 at 10:00 AM


Two readings today.

Bernard Avishai, a Canadian-born Israeli, is at Elliott Bay Book Company this afternoon reading from The Hebrew Republic: How Secular Democracy and Global Enterprise Will Bring Israel Peace at Last. This book has a tremendously boring cover.

And at the Hugo House, Blue Begonia Press, a poetry press out of Yakima, is having a party to celebrate the release of their fall line. Authors named Cal Kinnear, Kim-An Lieberman, Terry Martin, Bill Ransom and John Graber will be in attendance. Here is the beginning of a poem by Kim-An Lieberman. I like it a lot.

Mrs. Willard, expecting catalogs, fainted.

Hearing thuds, Mags & Benno ran to the porch.

Their mother was woozy, breathing damply

in the shade of the beast’s ponderous tongue.

The rest of the poem is here.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reading Today: Early Edition

posted by on October 25 at 8:00 AM


I'm putting this post up early for very selfish reasons: At 11 o'clock today, I will be at the Richard Hugo House, interviewing Matt Ruff about everything under the sun. You should throw on some clothes—you don't even have to shower until later today; I won't tell anyone, I promise—and come on down to the Hugo House to watch. Ruff is local, but he doesn't make a whole lot of appearances in town. And his body of work—a multiple-personality love story, a fucked-up spy story, a sci-fi rebuttal of Atlas Shrugged—begs all kind of questions. I hope to see you there.

Later in the day, Michelle Goodman reads at Elliott Bay Book Company from My So Called Freelance Life. This means there could very well be a roomful of freelance writers, which is kind of a scary idea.

Then there are two readings by lonely ladies. Theo Pauline Nestor is at the Ballard Branch of the Seattle Public Library reading from How to Sleep Alone in a King Sized Bed, which is an allegedly humorous book about divorce. And Wendy Kays reads at Newberry Books from her book Game Widow, which is a book for women whose husbands spend too much time playing video games. Perhaps these two authors should do a tag-team reading and figure out who is worse off. I think maybe they both spend a little too much time thinking about men, for what it's worth.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Comedy Show Guest

posted by on October 24 at 11:39 AM

Slog tipper Maggie informs us that Sherman Alexie will be the guest on the Colbert Report next Tuesday, November 28th. I can't wait.

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 24 at 10:27 AM


There's a whole lot going on tonight.

Abigail Carter is up at Third Place Books. She's the author of a book called The Alchemy of Loss, which is about her experiences as a 9/11 widow. We'll have to see if the 9/11 Truth people decide to show up.

At Elliott Bay Book Company, Michael Daley and Tim McNulty will read. Daley has just written his second poetry collection in 25 years. McNulty writes both poetry and prose.

Up at the University Book Store, Greg Melville reads from Greasy Rider, which is about his cross-country road trip in a vegetable-oil powered car. I have gotten many copies of this book, and I just can't bring myself to care. Maybe you do. That's why you should go to the University Book Store.

But speaking of road trips, the Hugo House is hosting an event tonight called Road Trip. I don't think it has any relation to the surprisingly good 2001 movie of the same name, but it does have Matt Ruff, who is a Seattle-area treasure, and Aimee Bender, who is one of my all-time favorites. There is also a poet named Marie Howe, and a musician named Laurie Katherine Carlsson. I don't know anything about them, but they could be the worst performers in the world and Bender and Ruff would still make this worth attending. All will be reading/performing new work on the theme of road trips.

Here is an interview I just recently did with Aimee Bender. A snippet:

An Invisible Sign of My Own felt different than your short stories—it felt more rooted in reality in some certain way. Did the writing of the novel affect the story that you told?

Yes—I had a more magical character who was a whittler who carved his fingers into flowers. He may end up in a short story someday but he didn’t fit the tone of the novel so I had to cut him, which was ultimately a relief. But he hung around in many drafts like a sore thumb, um, literally. I remember thinking with Invisible Sign that I wanted it all to be possible—not quite reality, but not full-blown magic either.

Check out the full interview here.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

McSweeney's Explains 2008 Election Demographics

posted by on October 23 at 4:00 PM

In the form of a movie trailer script for something called AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHIC: THE MOVIE:

JOE THE PLUMBER: Hello, fellow small-business owner. I'm Joe the Plumber, and I've successfully plumbed your bathroom. I'm relevant to national politics for some reason.

SMALL-BUSINESS OWNER: What do I owe you?

JOE THE PLUMBER: More than $250,000 a year. Despite my name and salary, I'm neither a Mafia boss nor a porn star.

(JOE THE PLUMBER exits the store and drives off in a van made of Stradivarius violins and children's laughter. Shortly, we hear a ding as ELDERLY JEWISH VOTER enters the store.)

A Minute of Weird

posted by on October 23 at 3:00 PM

Weird Tales, the sci-fi horror magazine, has just started posting a series of one-minute weird tales on YouTube. Here's the first:

"Animal cruelty? No. Not OK. Not OK in my book anyway."

posted by on October 23 at 12:21 PM


Some stupid fucker in Oregon is banning The Book of Bunny Suicides from her kid's school library by not returning the book to the library. She kind of reminds me of this stupid fucker from two days ago, in a stupid-hateful-fucker kind of way.

Video is here.

Two Completely Unrelated Bits of Book News

posted by on October 23 at 12:00 PM

Moby Dick has been designated as the official state book of Massachusetts. What would Washington state's official book be?


And the new Gphone doesn't seem to have an e-reader on it yet, but Galleycat points out a neat function it does have:

"Barcode Scanner allows you to 'scan' a book's barcode using the phone's camera, then brings up its Amazon page or a nearby retail location on Google Maps. We tried it on a few review books we have lying around (including some that aren't out yet), and it worked every time."

That's a great idea.

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 23 at 10:09 AM


We have a novel that is "reminiscent of...The English Patient" up at Third Place Lake Forest Park, a fantasy novel at the Science Fiction Museum at the EMP, and a bunch of non-fiction-type readings tonight.

In the U District, Joseph Miller reads from his memoir,The Wicked Wine of Democracy, which I think is a great title. It's about his life as a "a political operative and practicing lobbyist."

At Elliott Bay Book Company, Diane Wilson reads from her long-titled memoir Holy Roller: Growing Up in the Church of Knock Down, Drag Out; or, How I Quit Loving a Blue-Eyed Jesus. Ten bucks says the Q&A on this one leads to election talk.

At Town Hall, Edward Miguel reads from Economic Gangsters: Corruption, Violence and the Poverty of Nations, which is about the "dark side of economic development." Some days, it feels like there are no bright sides of economic development.

And at the Hugo House, there is a release party for the lovely locally produced literary magazine Filter. This newest issue includes lots of obfuscation, gorgeous poetry, and beautiful artwork. There will be a Suggests box popping up soon, but let me reaffirm:

This is the reading you should go to tonight.

Anyone who has complained about how Seattle doesn't have its own great literary magazine needs to come and take a look at the new issue of Filter. Seriously.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Now Define "Interim"

posted by on October 22 at 5:44 PM

The Hugo House has announced its new interim Executive Director. His name is Cory Sbarbaro, and he comes from a non-profit/executive background, not a particularly literary one. The release says "His areas of expertise include organizational assessment, planning and strategy formation, executive transitions and board development." Part of his job description is finding his replacement.

Sbarbaro has worked or is working with organizations like Nancy Bell Evans Center on Nonprofits & Philanthropy, Pacific Northwest Nonprofit Executive Leadership Institute, and the United Way of King County. This is called "playing it safe." The full press release is after the jump, although there's not really any reason to check it out (spoiler warning: Sbarbaro is "thrilled" to have the job!).

Continue reading "Now Define "Interim"" »

Sweet Mystery of Extortion

posted by on October 22 at 3:08 PM

On Seattle Mystery Bookshop's blog, there's a fairly long post that touches on a more and more frequent problem with author readings:

This morning, we got a message from Dana Stabenow. Her publisher was making the offer to send her to shops who could guarantee 100 'pre-sold' copies of her new hardcover by Jan. 17, 2009.

Their response was both emotional:

On one hand there is the feeling of loss. We were the shop that hosted Dana's first signing for her first mystery. In fact, it was our founder, Bill Farley, who told her she would win the Edgar with it, and his words were prophetic -- she did indeed win Best First Paperback Original. That has allowed us to feel somewhat proprietary about her, as we do all the Alaskan authors.

and thoughtful:

Publishers and publicists have no right to place such demands on shops. I can understand how the expenses of author tours are eating them alive and that they need to do something different. Fine, I'd be happy to make some suggestions.

It's a great post about the future of bookselling and readings. I think this practice of forcing independent booksellers to guarantee sales of a book are complete bullshit. I hear that James Frey's publisher was demanding that bookstores order ridiculous amounts (something like a couple hundred copies) of his new novel, Bright Shiny Morning, to get Frey to appear at a reading. Of course, he only pulled a couple dozen people to Town Hall when he actually did appear here. Good on the Mystery Bookshop for making this public.

Slog Commenter book Report 7: Aislinn Ogles The Senator's Wife

posted by on October 22 at 1:00 PM

As you know by now, I bring a batch of advance reader copies to Slog Happy for everyone to enjoy, with the caveat that the person who reads (or tries to read) the book has to review it for all of us here on Slog.

Today’s reviewer is the lovely and talented Aislinn. Aislinn is reviewing The Senator's Wife, by Sue Miller. Anything you don’t like about this review no doubt is due to the editing process and not at all Aislinn’s fault and you should blame the editor. I am the editor.


So, you’re really smart, right? And, being really smart, you probably say the word apercu all the time. For instance, when you’re talking to your very good-looking, college professor/author husband (who apparently married you because you’re so damn smart), you might say it as many as three times in one conversation, and then think it again shortly thereafter. Because, well, that’s just what really smart people do, when they’re not busy secretly reading their elderly neighbor’s personal letters, or lactating sexually* for said neighbor’s stroke-suffering, estranged husband. Whoops, spoiler alert!

I began The Senator’s Wife with the intention of liking it. Or, not hating it.

Being from a small New England town, I love it when books are set in small, New England towns. I also like family secrets, and, sometimes, chick stuff like marriage and babies and thoughtful gift baskets. This book has lots of those things. Unfortunately, it also has the one thing I hate most: old people copulating. I can tolerate subtle references to the elderly sharing intimate moments, but sentences like “They made love the first night, after Delia stroked him to a half erection and helped him come into her,” are completely unacceptable.

Icky mental images aside, Delia is the best part of the story, as the other main character, Meri (the one married to the hot professor), is so busy being Smart and Disaffected it’s impossible to care about her at all. The blurb on the back says that the book “brings elegance, gravity, and emotional power to her most transfixing themes: the meaning of loyalty, history, forgiveness, and grace itself.” If I was allowed to write such things, I’d replace that with: “One main character says things like “natch” and “apercu” and loves to talk about how lonely she is, while the other main character gives her septuagenarian husband halfies. The perfect gift for that sassy older lady in your life!” At least then, people could know what they were getting into.

That said, there is one chapter that is absolutely stunning, and should have been published alone as a short story. It’s one of two chapters set in Delia’s past (it's better for having no mention of insipid, milky Meri), meant to better explain the intricacies of her marriage to “the senator,” Tom, and why, twenty years later, they live apart and see each other only occasionally for trysts. That single chapter touchingly and realistically explores the relationships between Delia and her recently-grown-up children, as well as the quiet pain of a woman betrayed—an over-covered subject that is infrequently worth revisiting. Sue Miller’s exasperatingly thorough detail (smells, sounds, and what tabletops are made of are all faithfully reported) is cloying over the length of a novel, but in the small dose of this chapter it’s an effective tool for fostering involvement and sympathy for a woman experiencing a boring, conventional kind of family dysfunction. (At Christmas, no less).

Many thanks to Aislinn, who has now done two of these and is becoming the star Slog Book Reporter. I know many of you out there have your second books already, and you should get to it. Aislinn's making you look bad.

Continue reading "Slog Commenter book Report 7: Aislinn Ogles The Senator's Wife" »

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 22 at 10:18 AM


There's a hell of a lot going on tonight, including a story about ice-bound explorers, sustainable housing, and a cocktail party for a cookbook up at Third Place Books the Women’s University Club, and many others that I'm about to tell you all about right now.

At Seattle Public Library, it's time for the Washington State Book Awards, which I rather cruelly described in the reading calendar as "the Oscars of the Washington state literary community—without all the glamor, good looks, or excitement." But really, how many chances to get to an awards ceremony do you have in any given year? Here's a list of the winners. I assume that many or all of them will be there tonight:

FICTION Matt Ruff: Bad Monkeys POETRY Samuel Green: The Grace of Necessity HISTORY/BIOGRAPHY Coll Thrush: Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place GENERAL NONFICTION David R. Montgomery: Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations SCANDIUZZI CHILDREN'S BOOK AWARD Picture book: George Shannon: Rabbit’s Gift (Laura Dronzek, illustrator) Book for middle grades and young adults (10- to 18-year-old readers): Sherman Alexie: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

There are two readings at Town Hall tonight. Russell Shorto will read from his book about the conflict between science and religion. Shorto! I feel like when I say that aloud, I should get a super-power of some sort. And Dave Zirin chimes in on the crazy new "sports" fad that everybody's talking about with A People's History of Sports in the United States.

And at Elliott Bay Book Company, Jonathan Carroll, whose website defines him as a "hyper-fiction" author, reads from his newest book. Carroll is heavily endorsed by Neil Gaiman. I haven't read his new one, but if you're a Gaiman fan, you should check out Carroll either tonight, or at his reading tomorrow night.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Our Jim

posted by on October 21 at 4:00 PM


Seattle Public Library has unveiled its 2009 choice for the Seattle Reads... program, the thing that used to be called "If All Seattle Read the Same Book." This year's choice is My Jim, by Mount Baker author Nancy Rawles.

I'm not sure how many of you out there play along at home with the Seattle Reads program, but some people love it. The author reads at just about every Seattle Library branch there is. This year's readings will take place between May 20 and May 23, 2009.

My Jim is the story of the wife of Jim from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I haven't read it, but I do wish that SPL had picked Huckleberry Finn before they picked My Jim. In my bookstore days, I would get a lot of customers coming up to me and asking if they had to read that boring old huge book before they read My Jim.

Anyway, every branch of SPL will have many copies of My Jim available for readers to take out. If you've read Twain, it's probably worth your time.

Slog Commenter Book Report 6: Joh Joins The Army of the Republic

posted by on October 21 at 12:00 PM

As you know by now, I bring a batch of advance reader copies to Slog Happy for everyone to enjoy, with the caveat that the person who reads (or tries to read) the book has to review it for all of us here on Slog.

Today’s reviewer is Joh. Joh is reviewing The Army of the Republic, by Stuart Archer Cohen, a thriller set in the near future. Anything you don’t like about this review no doubt is due to the editing process and not at all Joh’s fault and you should blame the editor. I am the editor.


I have to say, right out of the gate, that if you love books with ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE ENDINGS, then The Army of the Republic is for you. And you suck. The end is trying very, very hard to be Citizen Kane, but comes out more like Mulholland Drive. It’s completely disorienting.

I know that those are both film references. What a segue! Cohen makes a theme out of “Pictures” versus “Words”. What makes that so trite is that this book almost reads like a screenplay. It’s got pages upon pages of detail about the most inane bologna, then when the action happens it skips around like a 7 year old on meth. It feels like he is trying to force the idea of a movie adaptation to anyone who even smells the ink on the paper.

The story is told from three viewpoints. The first is that of the young political freedom fighter-cum-quasi-terrorist Lando. He’s calculating, funny, and terribly boring for a protagonist. The next player is James Sands, macho corporate fat cat and owner of a privatized national water business. The third is Emily, some random lady who works for a civil organization group. She is quickly made into a caricature of social progress, and then becomes less interesting as the book wears on.

Now that I’ve said everything negative about the book that I can think of, I have to say that the story in and of itself is well thought out, and downright disturbing. It’s a look at what could be a very plausible political climate in the near future (especially if a certain gun-toting Alaskan whack-job makes her way into the White House under some act of Satan). There are corporate death squads running about killing off dissenters. A whole election is called off due to “terrorist threats”. There is a huge movement advocating paper ballots to counteract voting fraud.

So my recommendation is as such: if you read the book, stop about 10 pages short of the end, close it and make up your own ending. Mine involved baby penguins, a unicorn-fronted Heart tribute band, and James Gandolfini participating in the Iditarod.

Thanks very much to Joh, and you should totally consider retooling your ending into a whole new novel next month for National Novel Writing Month. I'd read it.

Daddy's Roommate Isn't Moving Into Wasilla

posted by on October 21 at 10:57 AM

A little while ago, I wrote about someone donating two gay-themed kid's books to the Wasilla Library. Those books weren't put on the shelves, but it's not what you think:

The Wasilla library does have children’s books dealing with homosexuality, including one title, “And Tango Makes Three,” about two male penguins raising an egg together.

[Library Director K.J.] Martin-Albright said the titles Petrelis donated failed to make it on library shelves because they are poorly constructed, lacked engaging illustrations and seemed to lack the ability to engage young readers. The books also appeared unable to stand repeated use, and would have likely fallen apart eventually.

“It really doesn’t have anything to do with the content or lack of content,” Martin-Albright said.

The donated books will go to Friends of Wasilla Library, to be sold during a future book sale. The money generated from those books sales goes to funding projects at the library.

It looks like, as someone commented on the intial Slog post, that Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate aren't the go-to books on the subject anymore. I can say from personal experience that that Tango book was all the rage with Seattle parents at Christmastime a year or two ago. It's heartening that there are actually good books for kids about homosexuality now, instead of just token books, and the Wasilla Library already had the books in stock.

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 21 at 10:26 AM


There's a whole lot going on tonight.

At Seattle Public Library, Julia Glass, who wrote Three Junes, which is a novel, reads from her new book, I See You Everywhere. A local bookseller, someone whose reading tastes I have great respect for, loathed Three Junes. She thought it was way too cutesy and manipulative. She never loathes any book completely, but Three Junes, to this day, makes her hand-shakingly angry. And that is why I've never read it.

Up at the University Book Store, Rick Wartzman reads from Obscene in the Extreme, which is about an attempt to censor The Grapes of Wrath. Let me repeat: people tried to censor The Grapes of Wrath! This is kind of depressing to think about, but Sarah Palin has proven that book-banning is still in fashion with certain particular douchebags.

At Town Hall, Antonia Juhas reads from The Tyranny of Oil, which is about our oil dependence. Did you know that we're dependent on oil? Shocking!

And most importantly, at Elliott Bay Book Company, Miriam Toews reads from her new novel, The Flying Troutmans. I really enjoyed The Flying Troutmans, which is about a family of eccentrics going on a road trip to find their lost father, although I was a little put off by the dust jacket, which equated the novel to Little Miss Sunshine. Books that compare themselves to independent films are not first in my heart, ordinarily, but it's a good book about characters who are not too eccentric to be real.

But the Toews (roughly pronounced "Taves") book you should read is A Complicated Kindness, which is an earlier novel of hers that is now available in paperback. It's about a teenage girl growing up in a strict, fundamental religious town, and it's her best book yet. You should go and listen to Toews read from her good, new book and then buy her better, older book and wait for the new book to come out in paperback.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Michael Jackson seems to reflect various trans-mutant themes."

posted by on October 20 at 1:00 PM


H+ Magazine just launched. It's apparently the world's first transhumanist magazine.

Wikipedia defines transhumanism as follows:

Transhumanism (sometimes symbolized by >H or H+),[1] a term often used as a synonym for "human enhancement", is an international, intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and overcome what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as disability, suffering, disease, aging, and involuntary death.

There are several articles about cell phones implanted into the human body, Botox parties, and attempts to defeat aging. And there are reviews of transhumanist fiction, too. I'm not sure if H+ will be the standard-bearer of transhumanism—some of the design is pretty bad—but I know transhumanism is only going to get bigger as we move into the future.

Covers Album

posted by on October 20 at 10:53 AM

Bookninja has a contest going. Contestants have used their (sometimes quite shoddy) Photoshop skills to make wildly inappropriate book covers for classic or much-beloved books. Like this:


You should go check it out, and vote for your favorites. I quite like the Necronomicon one, and To the Lighthouse is pretty great, too. But since it's almost election time, I'll give you one more:


Reading Tonight

posted by on October 20 at 9:50 AM


Hot diggity damn, is it good to be back.

Unfortunately, there aren't so many exciting readings tonight. There's an open mic and David Knibb, the author of Grizzly Wars, is reading at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. On initially scanning the title, I thought that Grizzly Wars would be a kick-ass science fiction novel, wherein warring countries would fight using cybernetically enhanced bears as their proxies. This is not the case.

According to the book's website, it's actually about "the policy and political issues involved in managing and attempting to save any species, especially one that can pose a grave danger to human beings. The author looks at the grizzly bear recovery areas on both sides of the border, from the North Cascades to the Northern Rockies." It sounds good, but not quite as mind-blowingly awesome as my sci-fi idea.

If anybody would like to steal my idea and use it for National Novel Writing Month, which starts in two short weeks, feel free. Just remember to thank me when the book gets published.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 15 at 5:14 PM

Paul Constant is on vacation. (Lazy.) Books, however, are not. Books never take a vacation. Always remember that books are here for you, unlike Paul Constant.

Tonight in books:

First of all, before I get to tonight's old-fashioned ink-'n'-paper readings, you MIGHT want to consider sitting down in front of that glowing electric movie-talkie book-box in the living room and ear-reading the final presidential debate. BUT! If you hate our freedoms (and/or John McCain's facial scabbing), here's what else is going on.


At the Douglass-Truth library (6:30 pm, free), Richard Farr reads from Emperors of the Ice: A True Story of Disaster and Survival in the Antarctic, 1910-13. Hey Richard Farr, maybe you should have called your book Emperors of the Spoiler Alert!: It Was Awful Cold but We Didn't Die. I mean, really. Why do I even need to read the book now?

Up at the Bothell Third Place Books (7 pm, free) it's Amy Duncan, with her book Salvage Studio: Sustainable Home Comforts to Organize, Entertain, and Inspire. Fuck that was a lot of syllables. Where am I? What day is it?


The University Bookstore is hosting a "cocktail party" to "celebrate" the release of a new Sandra Lee cookbook. Sandra Lee is that woman on the Food Network who makes canapes out of stale Pringles and Beanee Weenee. There are not enough cocktails in the world, Sandra Lee.

The Washington State Book Awards are going down at the Central Library (7 pm, free). And I'm not saying they're going down in a threatening way like, "YOU'RE GOING DOWN, BOOK AWARDS!" And I don't mean they're performing oral sex, on you or anyone. I mean, they don't technically even have a mouth. I just mean that they're taking place tonight. Hhhhh. I should have said that in the first place. This is awkward now. Anyway, Paul Constant, before he abandoned us all, said that you should go.

At Town Hall (7:30 pm, free), Dave Zirin reads from A People's History of Sports in the United States, which, one assumes, contains phrases like, "Back in the Depression, we didn't have basketballs. You know what we used instead? MUD. Goddamn modern kids and their rubber shoes."

And over at Elliott Bay, it's Jonathan Carroll, who writes something called "hyper-fiction." Paul Constant, a nerd, gave it a shiny gold star. It is probably delightful. (I would look it up but I have to go watch the PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE.)

(And of course I'm only kidding. You're not unpatriotic or a terrorist if you decide to skip tonight's debate and go listen to someone read out loud about when granddad used to play stickball down by the quarry with just a peach pit and a polio crutch. Or whatever. You're just, like, borderline French or something.)

Is Half a Book Better Than None?

posted by on October 15 at 1:40 PM

My brother took me to a bar under the El tracks in Chicago's Loop yesterday. I've probably walked past Monk's Pub a hundred thousand times and never thought to stop in for a beer because, well, just look at the place. Looks a little skeezy, no? And bars that you can't see into—bars without windows—aren't very welcoming, are they?


Ah, but everything inside Monk's Pub was warm and worn and welcoming.


We got a round of beers and discussed the bookshelves lining the walls at Monk's Pub while we waited for our burgers. The books aren't there to be read, of course, but to give the place a nice, cozy library-like feel. They set my brother off: He lectured me about the long history of books being used meaningless decorative objects, citing The Great Gatsby, and he explained to me that bookstores once bound all books to order, which is why all the bindings match in, say, the library of grand old English country home. I told my brother that I was in the habit of removing books from hotel lobbies and restaurants and bars—books that are being used as decorative objects, not books that are there to be read—and reading them. Something about the randomness appeals to me. (My last theft? A particularly moving collection of poems—that's right, Frizzelle, poems—that I found in a hotel lobby a few days after my mother died.) So I strolled over the bookshelves in Monk's Pub to see if there might be a book that I wanted to take with me and read on the train.

But it's kind of hard to read a book that's been cut in half.




The bookcases at Monk's Pub aren't deep enough to shelve full-sized books, so all the books had been cut in half, lengthwise. Which makes you wonder: Would Thy Neighbor's Wife by Gay Talese be half as bad in this form? Or twice as bad due to its (enhanced) incomprehensibility?

The bartender noticed me pulling books off shelves and asked what I was up to. I told her that I thought it was hilarious/tragic that all their books had been cut in half like this.

"That way nobody takes any," the bartender replied.

I was tempted to steal one anyway—two or three. I wanted to bring home The Gay Year—a classic gay pulp novel! in hardcover! first edition! cut in half!—and ask Paul to review it. How would it read? Would it make a rough sort of sense with half of every page crudely sawn away? And would cutting a book in half like this create any accidentally brilliant new passages? Alas, the bartender watched me like a hawk while we ate, so what remains of The Gay Year—the gay six months?—remains on the shelf at Monk's Pub. But my brother promised to return to Monk's sometime, order a pitcher or two of beer, and read a cut-in-half collection of science fiction stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and review it for Slog.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Happened to You After You Died

posted by on October 14 at 5:00 PM

If you happened to be an inmate of the Oregon State Insane Asylum between 1883 and 1970s and nobody wanted your body, you were cremated and sealed inside a copper canister.



You sat on a shelf in your canister, numbered somewhere between 01 and 5118. Over time, your ashes reacted chemically with your canister, as the canister reacted chemically with the air. You were inside, trying to get out.


Then, in 2005, a photographer named David Maisel found you, took your portrait, and just published it in a book called Library of Dust.


Out of Respect for the Memory of Martin Luther King...

posted by on October 14 at 1:38 PM

...let us refrain from judging his children on the content of their characters.

In the third King v. King legal dispute in four months, two of Dr. King’s children are refusing to provide a biographer of their mother, Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006, with a collection of her photographs, letters and personal papers. Their brother, Dexter King, chairman of their father’s estate, has asked a judge to force them to comply.

At stake is a $1.4 million book deal with the Penguin Group—as well as the reputation of one of America’s most famous families. Penguin said it intends to terminate the contract and demand the return of a $300,000 advance if the Kings do not turn over the papers to the biographer, Barbara Reynolds, by Friday.

Letter of the Day

posted by on October 14 at 1:05 PM

Mr. Constant is on vacation—lecturing squirrels in Maine about the literary merits of graphic novels—so I'll post this for him.

Hi Paul...

A couple of weeks ago you posted on SLOG a link to Nina Katchadourian's stories told in book spines. In comments, someone from the University Book Store linked to a contest they were running where you make your own spine story. I won! Apparently I was the only entrant. Still, I thought my entry kicked ass, so I've attached it for your pleasure.

I have a $25 U Book Store gift card coming to me, so thanks for the post!



Congratulations, Doug.

This Is a Weird Time of Year in Los Angeles

posted by on October 14 at 12:06 PM

The first two weeks of October in Los Angeles--especially in the suburbs an hour north of Los Angeles, where nothing of importance has ever happened--are eerie, cinematic, softly baked, windy, loaded-with-the-faint-possibility-of-something-finally-happening (horror? crisis?) days. When you live there as a kid, you somehow think that faint whiff of horror/crisis/possibility is related to Halloween coming, to the pumpkins nestled in the curlicues of suburban excess, but when you reach, say, 11th grade, the age at which you are old enough to be assigned Joan Didion essays to read by your slightly magical English teacher, you realize it's just the wind. Not the Octobery tchotchkes. It's the wind that's fucking with you.

Joan Didion (from one of the essays toward the back of Slouching Towards Bethelehem):

There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sand storms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to flash point. For a few days now we will see smoke back in the canyons, and hear sirens in the night. I have neither heard nor read that a Santa Ana is due, but I know it, and almost everyone I have seen today knows it too. We know it because we feel it. The baby frets. The maid sulks. I rekindle a waning argument with the telephone company, then cut my losses and lie down, given over to whatever it is in the air. To live with the Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior.

Skipping a paragraph...

"On nights like that," Raymond Chandler once wrote about the Santa Ana, "every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen." That was the kind of wind it was. I did not know then that there was any basis for the effect it had on all of us, but it turns out to be another of those cases in which science bears out folk wisdom.

And also (can't resist)...

Easterners commonly complain that there is no "weather" at all in Southern California, that the days and the seasons slip by relentlessly, numbingly bland. That is quite misleading. In fact the climate is characterized by infrequent but violent extremes: two periods of torrential subtropical rains which continue for weeks and wash out the hills and send subdivisions sliding toward the sea; about twenty scattered days a year of the Santa Ana, which, with its incendiary dryness, invariably means fire. At the first prediction of a Santa Ana, the Forest Service flies men and equipment from northern California into the southern forests, and the Los Angeles Fire Department cancels its ordinary non-firefighting routines. The Santa Ana caused Malibu to burn as it did in 1956, and Bel Air in 1961, and Santa Barbara in 1964. In the winter of 1966-67 eleven men were killed fighting a Santa Ana fire that spread through the San Gabriel Mountains.

Right on schedule, the fires in Los Angeles and Ventura counties are raging right now, and the Los Angeles Times is blogging about it like crazy. Here's a photo taken by the LA Times's Francine Orr last night of a news van parked just north of the 118 Freeway, just before evacuations were ordered. Those streaks of orange light are embers blowing in the wind.


Here's a gallery of photos by LA Times's photographers, beginning with this one:


And here's a gallery of photos by Reuters photographers, including this one:


Gov. Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency. Two people are dead so far. And so is at least one squirrel, who started a small fire with its own flaming body ("Firefighters say the squirrel set off the blaze yesterday when it shorted out a power line, caught fire, and dropped into dry vegetation").

Monday, October 13, 2008

Meanwhile, in England...

posted by on October 13 at 3:53 PM

The Guardian:

In an unprecedented outpouring of anger, 42 of the UK's most celebrated writers will each publish a short story, essay or poem tomorrow attacking the government's determination to proceed with legislation to hold terrorist suspects without charge for 42 days. The list of writers taking part reads like a literary 'Who's Who' of modern Britain. They include Philip Pullman, Julian Barnes, Monica Ali, Ian Rankin, Alain de Botton, Ali Smith and AL Kennedy...

What has until now largely been a political row is fast becoming a cause célèbre for Britain's literary establishment, who are flexing their intellectual muscles in a manner not seen since leading figures in the arts world regularly clashed with the Thatcher government in the Eighties.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reading Today

posted by on October 12 at 10:00 AM


There's one open mic and one reading. David Macauley, who wrote The Way Things Work, which is a great book for children that shows how machines operate, is in town with his new book The Way We Work. It's a cleverly illustrated guide for children about how bodies operate. I love this book. It's intended for children to understand it, but there are lots of things adults can learn, too.

And in self-important news: Starting today, I'm going on vacation until next Monday. I will be in the wilds of Maine and unable to use a computer or cell phone, so I won't be on Slog for a week. Some of you can begin celebrating now. All of you, have a good week.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Reading Today

posted by on October 11 at 10:00 AM


There are a ton of readings today.

At The Comics Dungeon in Wallingford from 2 to 4, Chris Onstad, who does the comic Achewood, will be signing. Achewood is a very funny comic strip most of the time. You should go to this one.

At Seattle Mystery Book Shop, Rosemary Poole-Carter reads from Women of Magdalene, which is a mystery about women in a lunatic asylum dying of natural causes...or is it MURDER? Probably murder, since it's the Seattle Mystery Book Shop.

At the University Book Store, Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson discuss their book about being a photojournalist in Iraq, which is called Unembedded.

At Elliott Bay Book Company, Laurence Gonzales, who also read yesterday, reads here today from Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things. This book looks kind of like Blink for Dummies. Then, later, Deborah Copaken Koga, who wrote Shutterbabe, reads from her new novel, Between Here and April. I don't think the book is about a threesome, but a book editor can dream, right?

And up at Third Place Books, Wendy Barnard reads from Custom Knits. One of the custom knits is, as you can see on the cover up there, a wetsuit for surfing. Now, I'm not a crafty person, but I think that might not be a good idea.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Department of Underpublicizing

posted by on October 10 at 12:00 PM


Slog Tipper Mark informs us of a reading nobody knew about, coming up tomorrow:

Chris Onstad, the Achewood creator, is signing copies of his new book on Saturday at the fucking Comics Dungeon between two and four. I haven't seen word one about it anywhere except on his blog.


Achewood is a very funny webcomic. Like many funny things, it can occasionally be very non-funny. But I guarantee it is ninety-thrillion times funnier than Get Fuzzy, which for some reason people insist is the most amazing thing to hit the comics page since Bill Watterson.


The signing is on Saturday the 11th, from 2 to 4. The Comics Dungeon is at 250 NE 45th St in Wallingford, and their phone number is 545-8373. Thank you, Mark.

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 10 at 10:12 AM


We have an open mic and two other readings tonight.

Up at Third Place Books, Laurence Gonzales reads from Everyday Survival, which is about how people don't make stupid mistakes, until they do. It's basically about the life or death decisions we make every day, and why we sometimes make mistakes.

Then at Elliott Bay Book Company, Gioia Timpanelli reads from What Makes a Child Lucky. Here is what SFGate says about the book: "Like a pot of lentils, Gioia Timpanelli's stories are elemental, simple but filling, and her new novel, "What Makes a Child Lucky," is no exception, teaching the basics of survival in a time of great hardship." Despite this review, I recommend this reading. It's a novella about a young boy who watches great violence happen. He then slowly build himself back into a real human.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

See You Next September

posted by on October 9 at 3:56 PM

Maud points to this story about a small publisher named Atlas that, due to financial troubles, has to postpone its spring releases. They will supposedly be released next fall. One of the books is Louis Begley's book about Franz Kafka, The Tremendous World I Have Inside My Head. I hadn't heard about this book, but I'm looking forward to reading it in late 2009.

You've Been Cruciblized!

posted by on October 9 at 3:00 PM

Holy God. I didn't hear about this when it happened, but Halloween is coming up, so it's appropriate again:

A man assigned "The Crucible" in an adult education English class doused his teacher with a nonflammable liquid and threatened to burn her as a witch, police said.

Darin Najor, 20, ran from the classroom after the attack Sept. 11 and was sent for psychiatric evaluation after telling police "he was trying to kill the witch by pouring holy water over her head," Detective Ken Denmark said.

Also, I think Detective Ken Denmark is a great name. If he's really smart and eccentric, I bet he could hold down a mystery book series.